Why don’t Japanese dogs bark?

That’s an exaggeration of course, but it’s generally amazing how quiet and well behaved they are – so much so that I’m almost certain the owner of the two barky dogs next to Yokohama International School in Yamate must be foreign. According to a few websites the Shiba-ken (called “Shiba-inu” for some reason in English) is a breed that rarely barks anyway. However, not running and barking at all and sundry (not even foreigners!) like in the UK, Turkey, Thailand and virtually everywhere I’ve lived certainly doesn’t seem to be breed-specific in Japan. Do they have some dog training tricks which Google hasn’t managed to find for me?

Why is there no online list of the biggest islands in Japan?

I was recently looking for a top ten list, but instead got hundreds of sites telling me the rather obvious fact that the big four islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku and nothing more. There is a top ten list on Japanese language Wikipedia, but a bit of digging revealed that things are much more complicated than that list would suggest, perhaps also explaining why there is no English language equivalent. That list is:

  1. Honshu
  2. Hokkaido
  3. Kyushu
  4. Shikoku
  5. Etorofu-to
  6. Kunashiri-to
  7. Okinawa Honto
  8. Sadogashima
  9. Amami Oshima
  10. Tsushima

The fact completely hidden in that list is that numbers 5 and 6 are claimed by and administered Russia, the latter being a factor that Japan is only too keen to stress the importance of when it comes to island disputes with China. If we exclude those two, that brings Awaji and Amakusa Shimoshima into the list. We could also argue that Tsushima shouldn’t be there as it has been split into two by canals, in which case Yakushima would make into the top ten. Most likely top ten with area in km2 and other versions of their names plus alternatives for the list below:

  1. Honshu – 225,800 km2
  2. Hokkaido- 78,719 km2
  3. Kyushu – 37,437 km2
  4. Shikoku – 18,545 km2
  5. Okinawa Honto (Okinawa Shima, Okinawa Island) – 1,206 km2
  6. Sadogashima (Sado Island) – 855 km2
  7. Amami Oshima – 712 km2
  8. Tsushima (Tsushima Island) – 709 km2
  9. Awaji-shima (Awaji Island) – 593 km2
  10. Shimoshima (Amakusa Shimoshima, Shimo Island) 574 km2

Other possible entries

Etorofu-to (Iturup) – 3,139 km2 – administered and claimed by Russia

Kunashiri-to (Kunashir Island) – 1490 km2 – administered and claimed by Russia

Yakushima – 524 km2

The top four are the 7th, 21st, 37th and 50th biggest islands in the world, according to Wikipedia.

Why is it okay for women to obsess over cross dressing female Takarazuka actors?

Japan hardly being famous for open expression of homosexual love.

“girls and women are given both implicit permission and active encouragement to love other women – specifically, the male-role players – under the pretext that this affection is not (homo-)sexual in nature, because the object of their love is ‘male’, and therefore does not compromise the subjects’ ‘normal’ sexuality. On the other hand, the very fact that Takarazuka otokoyaku are not biological males means that they are apparently not usually perceived by the husbands of married fans as rivals, nor by the parents of single fans as a threat to the marriageability of their daughters.” Gender Gymnastics pg7

That still leaves a big “Why?” unanswered to me…

See the last couple of posts for more from this book on this fascinating phenomenon.

Why would anyone get obsessed by the Takarazuka all-female theatre?

… particularly the otokoyaku who play the male roles.

“Recent Anglophone scholarship has addressed this issue at length through one specific focus- that of sexuality. Two opposing opinions emerge- that the main attraction of Takarazuka for its fans is sexual… (Robertson 1998b, 145) or that it is ‘a-sexual and a-gendered’ (Nakamura and Matsuo 2003, 59)…”

“The Takarazuka otokoyaku’s portrayal of masculinity is different from that of a typical man, sometimes seeming sexless or gender-neutral, sometimes deliberately seductive and erotic.” Gender Gymnastics pg9

Being both at the same time seems not only possible but also particularly East Asian, with most all-female J-pop and K-pop groups somehow both sexy and sexless. The real appeal lies in this, though, I reckon:

“For many women, Takarazuka is also a place of respite from a boring, unpleasant or unfulfilling everyday existence as a female in Japanese society.” pg 7

making it similar to the reki-jo (history girl) phenomenon more recently.

Why does the Takarazuka all-female theatre exist?

Unlike what I’d read about being set up simply to keep a private rail line busy, it seems that it didn’t come out of nowhere:

“Takarazuka is one example of a distinct genre within twentieth-century Japanese popular culture, the ‘all-female revue (shojo kageki)’, composed of a number of different performance groups with common features.” Gender Gymanistics pgs 3 and 4

Don’t have the book here to check if it’s exactly the same, but the whole thesis on which it was based seems to be available in pdf format for free here:

http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/349/2/02Whole.pdf

 

 

Why don’t Japanese cyclists obey the rules?

I keep on coming back to this question, because there seems to be such a change between Japanese on foot, on two wheels and on four. For example, cyclists jumping red lights where pedestrians and motorists never would, cycling with umbrellas, ignoring one-way signs on streets, and protests against changing a law against more than one child seat.

I wonder whether cycling became  popular during a chaotic period in Japanese period like Taisho or just after WWII.

Much more on this topic by clicking on the Japanese cyclists category above.

Why does political campaigning in Japan mainly consist of waving hands in white gloves from vans?

It’s mainly because so many other kinds of campaigning are restricted. No knocking on doors or ads are allowed, online social media campaigning was banned until this election, and even the number of leaflets one candidate can post is limited. The fact that it is usually just accompanied with “Vote for (name)” with no policies at all from the van’s loudspeaker makes me think that those things actually suit the politicians with their complete lack of ideas of how to improve Japan, but it also of course might have contributed to the lack of actual policies.

According to yesterday’s International Herald Tribune, the white gloves stand for clean government and the laws restricting campaigning were meant to level the playing field between rich and poor candidates.

Why did Japanese immigrants assimilate so well?

You wouldn’t think that Japanese could assimilate if you were in a predominantly Japanese area of Bangkok or Seoul, and people said exactly the same thing about first generation Japanese in Hawaii, California and Brazil, e.g. “Oliveira Viana, a Brazilian jurist, historian and sociologist described the Japanese immigrants as follows: ‘They (Japanese) are like sulfur: insoluble’.”

Now, however, 61% of great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants in Brazil have at least some non-Japanese blood, 60% of Japanese-Brazilians are Roman Catholics (only 25% being adherents of a Japanese religion), and the third generation, however, are most likely monolingual in Portuguese. Similar things are true in other countries, for example church going in Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Hawaii and California being much higher than continued belief in Buddhism, let alone Shinto.

I put both the early and more recent histories down the Japanese desire to blend in with society, because in the early days for most people that society would have been just their immigrant community but sooner or later the society to blend in with would be seen (consciously or unconsciously) as the local community.

Most info above from Wikipedia, but all speculation entirely my own.

Why do Japanese farmers have so much electoral power?

Believe it or not, it’s the Americans’ fault again:

“disparities in Japan’s election system have long favored conservative rural districts over urban ones by giving them a disproportinately large number of representatives in the Diet, Japan’s Parliament. Those inequalities… date from U.S. occupation policies after World War II aimed at turning farmers into a powerful anti-Communist voting bloc”

From this weekend’s International Herald Tribune

Why does cos-play have a (semi-) English name?

It could be because the idea also came from an English speaking country, if this story from a recent edition of the BBC Radio programme Boston Calling is be be believed:

“Some early Japanese fans went to Star Trek conventions, saw them dressing up in the US and brought that back to Japan”

Cos-play is short for “costume play” and in Japanese means any kind of dressing up, unlike its English language use only for anime-related dressing up since it was borrowed (back?) from Japanese.

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